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Frank Hartley Anderson created the woodcut Church Supper in the mid-1930s. But I know this scene. I feel like I’ve lived it—or at least a more modern version of it. 

Going to church was a weekly affair for most Americans in the early 20th century. For Black Americans particularly, church was a refuge, a place where you could dress nicely without being called “uppity” and gather without white people feeling threatened. The sanctuary was just that: a safe space to vent frustration about those opportunities denied due to racism and praise God for those given with love. 

Church was a community where you could seek company, redemption, and nourishment for both souls and bellies. 

Frank Hartley Anderson, Church Supper, 1935-1936

Frank Hartley Anderson, Church Supper, 1935-1936, woodcut, Reba and Dave Williams Collection, Gift of Reba and Dave Williams, 2008.115.669

Gathering over Food after Service

I grew up attending Catholic church in the mid-1980s to early ’90s with family in Chicago and Jackson, Mississippi. Those were different, yet similar, experiences. 

In Chicago, we’d meet in the Sunday school classroom for tuna salad and cucumber tea sandwiches, quiche lorraine, cookies, and 7-Up punch—all items that could be served cold or at room temperature after service. On special occasions, volunteers brought potluck dishes meant to be reheated and served on a buffet.

In Jackson, a rotating group of Church Ladies—the capital-letter matriarchs who were considered the best cooks and congregation members—were excused from service each week to spend the morning in the rectory kitchen. My sister and I would sneak down and see them seasoning chicken legs or pork chops, mixing cake batter, and rolling balls of dough for the highly anticipated dinner rolls. They arrived early each Sunday, gossiping and cooking while others filled the pews before the first notes bellowed out of the organ pipes. 


An Arena of Love and Care

After services where people gave voice to life’s joys and indignities the rectory became a cafeteria. But more than just refreshments and supper, it was an arena in which Black women cared for and loved on their community. 

Non-Black artists rarely depicted that love and care with which Black people treated one another. In this work, Frank Hartley Anderson carved out a space that shows the humanity, dignity, and commonality of this intimate yet ordinary moment. Maybe he experienced it himself as a guest in a Black church. 

This print seems to show the end of supper: cups of tea or coffee on the table, plates holding what may be cake, and women passing smaller items for nibbling. Some of the churchgoers are eating, while others listen attentively to a man in glasses who is likely the pastor. He gestures, possibly expanding on the message from the sermon or talking about the pressing issues of the day. I can hear the passionate way he speaks, his voice carrying over the clink of forks. Anderson’s use of dark tones evokes a solemn feeling of deep conversation.


Buttered Rolls

When I was growing up, gathering over food after service prolonged the feelings from the sermon and our connection with one another. Often part of post-Church suppers in both Chicago and Jackson, and always the first thing to go, made-from-scratch, freshly baked dinner rolls were my favorite. The browned, crested peaks gave way to fluffy interiors, buttery and slightly sweet. All nestled together in a round pan, they expressed the connection we felt breaking bread before going back to our separate lives. I can picture the curling wisps of steam that rose when we pulled them apart. I can smell the intoxicating yeasty aroma, as heady as knowing you were loved unconditionally by God. 

Recipe makes 12 rolls. 


  • ⅔ cup milk
  • ¼ cup water
  • 2 tablespoons white sugar
  • 2 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 2–2½ cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1–2 tablespoons butter, softened


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Combine the milk, water, and sugar in a microwaveable bowl and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Microwave mixture for 20–30 seconds or until just above room temperature, but not hot. Stir in the yeast and let sit until a frothy foam covers the top of the liquid (2–5 minutes). 
  3. Combine 2 cups of the flour with the salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook. Turn on low speed, then add the melted butter and milk-yeast mixture. (For hand mixing instructions, see step 4.) 
  4. Beat on medium speed for 2 minutes, then stop and scrape the bottom of the bowl to make sure all the flour is combined. Continue beating on medium speed for 3–4 minutes, adding remaining flour as needed to make a soft dough that is not sticky to the touch. The dough can be mixed by hand with a wooden spoon in a large bowl by stirring the ingredients together until fully incorporated (about 5 minutes).
  5. Place dough on a lightly floured surface and knead for 3 minutes—6 minutes if you mixed the dough by hand. Dough should be soft and moist, but not stick to the surface. Don’t add more flour unless the dough is sticking. If the dough is dry, these will come out more like biscuits than rolls.
  6. Cover with a damp towel and let rest for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, use a paper towel to rub 1 tablespoon of the softened butter over the bottom and sides of a 9-inch round cake pan. 
  7. Portion the dough into 12 equal pieces. Roll each piece between your hands until it is round, then place it in the prepared pan. Cover with a damp towel again and let rise until just about doubled in size, 20–30 minutes.
  8. Bake in the preheated oven for about 20 minutes or until the tops are golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool for a few minutes, then rub remaining butter over the tops of the rolls. Serve while still warm.


Chef Adrienne Cheatham is author of  Sunday Best: Cooking Up the Weekend Spirit Every Day. She grew up in restaurants managed by her mother and has since worked with chefs Eric Ripert at the Michelin-starred Le Bernandin and Marcus Samuelsson at Red Rooster. Chef Cheatham was a finalist on Season 15 of “Top Chef” and created the popular SundayBest popup hosted in secret locations across New York City. 

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Adrienne Cheatham

Chef, author, and “Top Chef” finalist

July 07, 2023